Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Session October 16, 2019
from the Circuit Court for Houston County No. 4352 Larry
Douglas Marshall Mathis, appeals the denial of both his
motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee
Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 and his motion to withdraw
his original, pro se petition for post-conviction relief,
which was granted in 2001. Because Petitioner failed to state
a colorable claim for relief and because the life sentence
imposed for his first degree murder conviction is legal, we
affirm the denial of his Rule 36.1 motion. Because
Petitioner's original petition for post-conviction relief
was heard and granted nearly two decades ago, we affirm the
denial of Petitioner's motion to withdraw that petition.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Circuit
McDonald, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Douglas
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Bryant C.
Dunaway, District Attorney General; and Owen Burnette,
Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State
Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Robert L. Holloway, Jr., and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.,
TIMOTHY L. EASTER, JUDGE
years ago, the Houston County Grand Jury charged Petitioner
with one count of first degree murder and one count of second
degree murder for the May 11, 1999 killing of Selwyn Ward. On
May 18, 2000, Petitioner entered a plea of guilty to the
charge of second degree murder in exchange for a 15-year
sentence and dismissal of the first degree murder charge.
See State v. Douglas Marshall Mathis, No.
M2002-02291-CCA-R3-CD, 2004 WL 392710, at *1 (Tenn. Crim.
App. Mar. 3, 2004) (Mathis I), perm.
app. denied (Tenn. Oct. 11, 2004); Douglas
Marshall Mathis v. State, No. M2006-02525-CCA-R3-PC,
2008 WL 1850800, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 25, 2008)
(Mathis II), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Oct.
9, 2001, Petitioner filed a pro se petition for
post-conviction relief, seeking to set aside his guilty plea
on grounds that it was not knowingly and voluntarily entered.
After the State agreed that Petitioner should be granted
relief, the post-conviction court vacated Petitioner's
conviction of second degree murder and set Petitioner's
case for trial on the charge of first degree murder. See
Mathis II, 2008 WL 1850800, at *1. The transcript of the
hearing on Petitioner's petition establishes that the
post-conviction court repeatedly warned Petitioner that,
should the court grant him the relief he desired, he would go
to trial on a charge of first degree murder and that he would
be facing a life sentence. Nevertheless, Petitioner persisted
in his demand that his second degree murder conviction be set
aside. Neither party appealed the decision granting
post-conviction relief. Following a 2002 trial, a Houston
County Circuit Court jury convicted Petitioner of first
degree murder, and the trial court imposed the only
statutorily-available sentence of life imprisonment. See
Mathis I, 2004 WL 392710, at *1.
direct appeal, Petitioner challenged the sufficiency of the
convicting evidence, the accuracy of the trial court's
instructions to the jury, the propriety of the
prosecutor's closing argument, the impartiality of the
jurors that tried the case, and the admission of certain
evidence. See id. Petitioner did not challenge the
grant of his petition for post-conviction relief or the
validity of the presentment charging him with first degree
murder. Ultimately, a majority of this Court affirmed
Petitioner's first degree murder conviction. See
id. at *10.
filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief from his
first degree murder conviction in June 2005, alleging, among
other things, that "he was not prosecuted on a valid
first degree murder indictment." Mathis II,
2008 WL 1850800, at *6. Essentially, Petitioner claimed
"that the trial court discharged him with regard to the
first degree murder indictment in a nolle prosequi order
entered pursuant to his prior guilty plea to second degree
murder" and "that the State should have completed a
formal proceeding to reinstate his
indictment." Id. at *7. In its order denying
post-conviction relief, the post-conviction court observed
that "Petitioner was specifically advised that the
result of granting [his 2001 post-conviction petition] would
be that he would be tried for First Degree Murder. Petitioner
stated that he understood this and persisted in his request
to vacate his plea of guilty to Second Degree Murder."
The post-conviction court also found that, when
Petitioner's plea was set aside, the State's
agreement to dismiss the first degree murder charge was also
set aside. This Court concluded that Petitioner waived his
post-conviction challenge to the validity of the presentment
by failing to present the issue either prior to trial or on
direct appeal. Id. at *8. We also determined that,
waiver notwithstanding, Petitioner was not entitled to
post-conviction relief because the nolle prosequi on the
first degree murder charge was conditioned upon
Petitioner's pleading guilty to second degree murder such
that, when Petitioner withdrew his guilty plea, "the
trial court acted properly in reinstating the indictment for
first degree murder." Id.
this Court's decision affirming the denial of
post-conviction relief, Petitioner filed his first petition
for writ of habeas corpus, alleging that the 2001 grant of
post-conviction relief from his conviction of second degree
murder was not valid "because the post-conviction court
failed to make the proper finding 'that a constitutional
violation occurred during the plea proceedings.'"
Douglas Marshall Mathis v. State, No.
M2010-00730-CCA-R3-HC, 2011 WL 300143, at *1 (Tenn. Crim.
App. Jan. 19, 2011) (Mathis III), perm. app.
denied (Tenn. May 26, 2011). He argued that without
making a finding that a constitutional violation had
occurred, "the post-conviction court was not authorized
to vacate his plea and conviction and retry him on the first
degree murder charge" and insisted that "his guilty
plea to second degree murder with the fifteen-year sentence
be reinstated." Id. The habeas corpus court
summarily dismissed the petition, holding that Petitioner had
failed to establish "that his judgment is void or that
he is being illegally detained." The habeas corpus court
also noted that Petitioner did not appeal the 2001 grant of
post-conviction relief and observed that Petitioner had filed
the petition for writ of habeas corpus "because he did
not receive the outcome he had desired in a full and lawful
jury trial." Id. This Court affirmed the
summary dismissal of the petition because Petitioner failed
to comply with the procedural requirements for filing a
petition for writ of habeas corpus. We also
agree[d] with the habeas corpus court that Petitioner's
best, and possibly only, avenue of relief would have been to
appeal the 2001 judgment of the post-conviction court, not to
wait almost nine years until the new trial he admittedly
actively sought produced an ...